Local News

Portions Of N.C. In Moderate Drought

Posted September 23, 2005 7:26 a.m. EDT

— North Carolina is officially back in a drought.

After up to eight weeks of little or no rain, the U.S. Drought Monitor declared that portions of the eastern Piedmont and some northeast counties are in a moderate drought. That could mean some crop damage, developing water shortages and a higher risk of fires.

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Still, the situation isn't considered desperate. The moderate drought label is the second-least severe of the five categories of parched conditions that the monitor can designate.

In 2002, near the end of the state's four-year drought, portions of the Piedmont and the mountains were considered in exceptional drought, the worst category. Mandatory restrictions were widespread and some systems temporarily ran out of water.

At least 14 local governments or water systems covering more than 800,000 people have already issued voluntary water restrictions in North Carolina, most in the drought area.

While some municipalities have routine restrictions, Raleigh and Rocky Mount have approved their voluntary limits in recent days as the arid conditions have worsened. Cary, Greensboro and Siler City also are among the municipalities within the drought area. The U.S. Drought Monitor extends the drought conditions as far east as portions of Northampton and Gates counties.

Woody Yonts, chairman of the North Carolina Drought Management Advisory Council, said the panel could urge more restrictions when it meets again Oct. 5.

For now, he said: "We'd like for the people in North Carolina to continue voluntary restriction practices year-round to make sure people use their water wisely."

Autumn is considered a dry season but water use also declines as it turns colder, Associate State Climatologist Ryan Boyles said.

"We don't expect this to be a persistent condition as we move into the fall and winter," he said.

The Drought Monitor designation released Thursday doesn't account for heavy rains that fell Tuesday in the Piedmont, but state water officials said they likely won't make an immediate impact.

"We need more stuff like that for at least three or four weeks before we get rid of any question" of a drought, Boyles said. But normal rainfall amounts for the coming weeks may extend the drought period.

"It generally takes time to get into one of these things and it takes time to get out," he said.

Falls Lake, which provides water to Raleigh and other Wake County towns, is nearly 2-1/2 feet below normal levels for this time of year, according to U.S. Army Corps of Engineers records. Kerr Lake, which also is in the drought area and supplies water to Henderson, is more than 2 feet below normal.

Greensboro precipitation total so far this year is 9.78 inches below normal, while Raleigh-Durham's totals is 5.3 inches below normal, according to National Weather Service data.